Half of pupils on free school meals can't read

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Nearly half the 11-year-olds on free school meals cannot read or add up properly by the time they leave primary school, according to figures released yesterday.

Children on free school meals are far less likely to reach the required standard in national curriculum tests than those for whom English is a second language. A breakdown of this year's test results revealed that 55.8 per cent of those on free school meals reached the required standard in both maths and English compared with 69.1 per cent of those with English as a foreign language.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that a key reason could be that many of those from ethnic minority backgrounds came from cultures that valued education more.

"These figures reveal that our education system is letting down half of all 10 and 11-year-old boys who qualify for free school meals," said Schools minister Nick Gibb.